A much requested post this week and one that I’m super excited to be doing actually. Creating photos is one of my favourite hobbies; developing images that I love to look at and that do a job is one of the best feelings in the world. Since I started blogging I’ve used it as a platform to both improve and display my beloved photography, and loads of people have had such lovely things to say about it, hence today’s post.
The first thing I will say is that what I do is all things that anyone can learn. It takes a long time, and a lot of practice, but anyone can learn to edit photos beautifully. Below I break down the start to finish process of how I edit my photos once they’re downloaded to my laptop.
The starting point
To be honest, I’ve picked a photo that’s a lot more under-exposed than I’d usually edit here. Just to really show the editing steps I take and what they do for an image. This example image is terrible. It’s far too dark, really. But hopefully with editing it’ll become blog worthy in no time! Once I’ve picked the photo I want to edit, I open it up in Lightroom.
Lightroom is great because it gives you the option of saving certain setting as ‘presets’ which then allows you to simply click one button with any image open to give it the same edit. I have three main presets I use for my blog photos. One for correctly exposed images, one for darker ones, and one for any photos I have to take using artificial light (like some of my makeup selfies which are taken in my bathroom/bedroom of an evening). For this post though, I’ll break down the settings in the preset so you can see exactly what I do.
So, all I’ve done in the above image is turn the highlights right down and set the right exposure. For this image it’s a little higher than usual at +1.55. Turning the highlights down just allows me to see exactly how bright I want the majority of the photo. But you can see it’s still really flat and a bit dull.
Once I’ve got the right initial settings, the photo looks flat and still quite rubbish, so then I like to bring it back to how the real products/items looked when I was taking the image. I choose to do this by altering the temperature, the tone, whites, blacks, clarity, and vibrance. All these subtle changes make the light look much more dimensional and ‘alive’. I’ve pushed the highlights a wee bit much in the example below to show what a huge difference they make.
Tweak what you have
If by this point I’m happy then I’m all done in Lightroom and just export it to my blog photo folder. With this image though I’m not happy, so I’m going to spend a little time playing around with all the settings, maybe sharpen it up a little etc. The key thing I’ll do with this image that I might not do with all of them is to reduce the noise level. In an image that started so dark and under-exposed, you lose detail with every editing step you take, which creates a lower quality, grainy effect. By upping the sharpness a teeny tiny bit and then reducing the noise level, you give the illusion of still having all that detail and image quality.
When I edit blog photos in Lightroom I don’t bother the the tone curve, but I use it for every other photo type that I take. Curve is a useful tool for getting a lovely vintage matte finish to landscapes and portraits, which is what I love most about it. Anyway, I digress. Tweaking the above settings results in this image…
You can see the different settings I’ve adjusted and I’m fairly happy with it. The one thing I have done is push the exposure even further, which I would normally want to avoid, but for some reason, my Lightroom exports the photos a little under the exposure I’ve set them at, so I always over expose to compensate for it. It must just be a strange quirk of my version of Lightroom talking to my laptop or something!
The only thing left to do is export it to my blog photo folder, open it up in paint.net (totally free, more basic PhotoShop with optional donation if you feel like it) and add my watermark. If it came out of my camera and I edited it, it’s got a watermark on it. You might not see them unless you look really closely, but watermarks aren’t supposed to be that obnoxious huge label of your own name or your website. It’s meant to be a discreet signature on a lovely image.
I won’t bother showing the watermark in images here because it’s so simple. I simply open the chosen image, import a new layer from file, and reduce the layer opacity to somewhere between 43 and 60 odd, just to make it transparent enough that it doesn’t interrupt the photo itself. then I save, upload, and that’s it! Below is a before and after of the image.
So there’s my finished photo, and if I’m honest, what I’ve done to it is nothing special. As long as it looks bright and fresh then I’m happy with that. I can edit other styles of image to be more ‘unrealistic’, but for my blog I like to keep it natural and simple. Let me know in the comments what your favourite editing tricks are for your photos! I’d love to see what everyone thinks!